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The fortress of Osijek

Category: Sights | Date: 25.06.2014.

The Baroque fortress of Osijek was built in the 18th century, on the site of the former historic (Roman) town, which meant a crucial strategic bridge on the river Drava. The town's name was Mursa Majeure or simply Mursa, which was annexed to the empire of the Roman Emperor by Hadrian in 131. Mursa which is a military fortress (Castrum) and bridge on the Drava functioned as a conduit of the newly established Roman province of Pannonia was under the guidance and protection of the 7th Roman legion.

The Former predecessor of the present-day fort played an important role in Roman times, thus it did in 351 as well. Near to the banks of the Drava, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Roman era took place, featuring two major Roman armies at the battle known as the Battle of Murska. One of the armies was led by Constantine II, the only surviving son of Constantine the Great (who spread Christianity as the religion of the Empire in the Holy Roman Empire), the other rival army, led by the usurper Magnentius, who was trying to overthrow the whole empire of the Holy Roman Emperor. In contrast with the pious-souled Constantine II, who went to pray even during battle to Mursara a Christian martyr's grave, Magnentius was convinced that the Pagan worshiping would return.

The result of the battle was the death of more than 500,000 Roman soldiers on both sides. II. Constantine won which was very important in the further development of the Roman Empire and the history of Christianity. One might say that the battle which took place at the present in Osijek fortress was the most important event in the spread of Christianity throughout the ancient world and it called forth great changes in history.

Today, the fortress in Osijek is the most important ancient town centre and the largest Baroque military fortress that has been preserved. Tvrđa has been described by the World Monuments Fund as, "a unique example of an eighteenth-century baroque military, administrative, and commercial urban center"

First, a new city-fortress was established, which defended the frontier of the Ottoman Empire according to the baroque strategic system, and it was rebuilt in 1712 on the basis of Prince Eugene of Savoy's plans.

Knowing the strategic transport position of the town of Osijek it was conquered by the Turks in 1526, which occupation lasted for 161 years. The fortress was liberated on the 26th September 1687 from under the oppression the Ottoman Empire, to commemorate this event every Friday bells ring at 11:00 am in Osijek.

The fort was made up of seven bastions, banquette, protective walls and trenches and the protective walls of the fortress outside. Inside the fort there were two important roads: Cardo (now Franciscan Street) and Decumanus (Franj Kuhač Street)

Up to 1715 on the eastern, western and southern side of the fort ramparts had been built for protection. As a part of this work the construction of two entrances was completed: Castle - from Porta Aquatica (Water Gate, still preserved together with the water tower) and from the Drava River, Porta Nova (New Gate, on the south side of the fort, in the direction to the would-be city). In 1716 the Porta Valpoviensis was built (Valpovačka gate), and the third gate through which we can get to Gornji grad (Upper Town). For an easier accessibility in 1783 the Joseph II Emperor got the fourth tower's gate made (Imperial Gate). Through the gate the bridge towering over the Drava we can get to Baranya, into the Donji grad (lower town) via the newly constructed road through Bely. This amendment was the last made to the fort with which it received its present form.

In the first half of the 18th century the fort was constantly changing, both in appearance and in its inner content. There were buildings serving military purposes, churches, monasteries, and Baroque style town houses. The main tower and the clock have been working since 1709; kerosene lighting of the streets was introduced then. In the fortress a high school was opened in 1729, a printing house in 1735, a German theatre and a channel network was introduced to provide the water supply in the areas of Slavonia and Osijek, which was named „Metropolis urbs".

When the fort was completely built in 1735, it was the biggest and most modern Habsburg Fort at the border of the Ottoman Emperor. At that time the whole Europe was concerned about the return of the once so powerful Ottoman army.

Since 1729 the Statue of Trinity has been standing on the main square Next to two baroque stone fountains this is the largest baroque statue in Croatia. The Jesuits brothers actively participated in the education of the citizens of Osijek in their churches and monasteries. The secondary education was held at the Jesuit monastery while the higher education was organized in the Franciscan church. Apart from teaching philosophy and theology the grey friars started printing in 1735 in the monastery. The high quality of education was provided by the Nobel Prize winner Ružička and Vladimir Prelog both former chemistry students of a secondary school in Osijek.

As time went by, the military role of the fortress was smaller and smaller, especially after the order of Joseph II, when in 1783 the armies of Slavonia and Syrmia were transferred from Osijek to Petrovaradin.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the residents of the fortress was multicultural: settlers from Croatia, Styria, Carniola, Bavaria, Moravia, Italy, France, Hungary and Bulgaria. The fortress was the multicultural part of Osijek.

There were two important ecclesial buildings. The St. Michael (1725-1748) perish church, which was the Jesuits' church with two belfries. The altar of the church is decorated by many altar-pieces, which were painted by the Austrian painter Franz Xaver Wagenschön.

The other church was owned by the Franciscans, a monastery, which was later, became a barrack. The monastery had a very important role in the education, because philosophy and theology were taught here (1709-1735). After this, the first Slavonian rabbi secondary school was established and then the printing was started.

The walls of the fortress set back the traffic and economical development of Osijek. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the walls of the fort were demolished. Today the fortress of Osijek is a historical and architectural heritage.